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The opportunity for CIOs to impact the customer experience

By Contributor, Thu 16 Sep 2021

Article by Sitecore chief operating officer for APJ Steve Hawkes.

The global pandemic reshaped work for everyone and thrust CIOs into the eye of a storm no one saw coming. Never in history has IT been relied upon to do so much, so quickly. While digital transformation was already at the top of every enterprise agenda, those plans were put on fast-forward. Along the way, with very little fanfare, the role of the CIO changed forever.

CIOs rose to the challenge of keeping organisations afloat by empowering a remote workforce, enabling digital-only customer interaction, and ensuring secure systems and staff. The success from those frenzied early months of the pandemic laid the groundwork for CIOs to drive innovation and change across their company’s technology infrastructure, people, and processes. 

Imagining a new future for IT

CIOs now have an opportunity to build on the widespread commitment to invest in new ways to conduct business. According to Gartner, CIOs should expect a decade of radical innovation led by nontraditional approaches to technology. It’s the perfect time to embrace the moment and reimagine a way to foster collaborative relationships. 

Starting with a focus on the external customer experience (CX) makes a lot of sense, especially since all industries saw customers migrate to digital platforms in the past year. The best strategy for CIOs to continue to influence brand value is to combine forces with the CMO. 

Why the external customer experience is critical for CIOs

CMOs face rapid demand to improve the customer experience and deliver insight about customer behaviour to the business. While the website has traditionally been the place where marketing and IT meet, customer attention has fragmented and now appears in multiple channels both inside and outside an organisation. 

Delivering an omnichannel experience introduces complexity, both in the tech stack and in meeting customer’s expectations. Marketing simply cannot keep up without the support of IT. 

Issues CIOs can alleviate for CMOs include:

  • Understanding how to leverage data
  • Evaluating martech integrations
  • Finding staff/consultants to support technology
  • Demonstrating ROI on enterprise technology spend
  • Keeping customer data secure and compliant
  • Moving from monolith architecture to composable solutions.

While CMOs struggle to keep pace with complexity, expectations have escalated to outright demand for brands to deliver a highly personalised, omnichannel customer experience. Organisations in which marketing and IT adopt a joint ownership strategy for the customer experience fare better than those where the two departments work independently. This is especially true of e-commerce technology in a business climate where most, if not all, customer contact is happening digitally. 

Where CIOs can deliver the most impact

The reality is most medium- to large-sized organisations require a headless, composable digital experience platform (DXP) to stay competitive and meet changing consumer behaviour. It’s impossible to build trust in IT when it can take years to upgrade monolithic applications, even those once considered suitable by marketing. 

CIOs can help CMOs make better decisions by selecting the best solution to support a sophisticated omnichannel experience. 

The decisions facing CMOs also have significant resource and infrastructure implications for IT. Marketing teams are eager to move to cloud-based technology for automation, AI and machine learning capability, and the kind of analytics legacy systems don’t provide. By the same token, legacy technology slows the pace of IT’s ability to innovate and poses more security risks than cloud-based technology. CIOs must develop a cloud strategy compatible with their current operation but adaptable for both marketing and IT’s short- and long-term needs. 

Finding the right partner

For CIOs, finding common ground with the CMO requires delivering on marketing’s need for a highly competitive customer and e-commerce experience while meeting current IT challenges. The solution is to find a modern digital marketing platform that allows marketing to operate as independently as possible without putting an additional burden on IT to rethink its entire operation. 

Part of a strategic collaboration with marketing is supporting them by analysing the deeper ramifications of selecting the right technology vendor. This includes: 

  • Having oversight of the vendor’s technology roadmap
  • Analysing the total cost of ownership, including dependencies on consultants
  • Evaluating the feasibility of integration and interoperability with existing systems
  • Determining the ease or difficulty of installing upgrades and new releases.

The way forward for CIOs

Smart CIOs are positioning themselves as chief strategy officers — indispensable architects of growth and resilience. Digital transformation will continue to morph and steer CIO’s priorities in new and different directions — not all of them easy to predict but certainly exciting, nonetheless. 

Keeping a focus on the customer experience – and collaborating closely with the CMO – gives purpose to the challenges and provides the potential to make a huge impact.

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